You Know What’s Shocking About This Dionne Warwick Record?

Another Record We’ve Discovered with (Potentially) Excellent Sound…

and One We Will Probably Never Do Again

Some records are just too consistently noisy to offer to our audiophile customers no matter how good they sound.

We have a section for records that tend to be noisy, and it can be found here.

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What’s shocking about a record like this is the fact that the instruments you hear behind and to the side of Dionne Warwick are REAL instruments, and for the most part they are not really being processed much, they are simply being recorded. How many times do you hear a pop album with sound like that? Rarely in our case, and we play them by the hundreds.

Just played a Linda Ronstadt album that she did with Nelson Riddle — you know the one —  and I can tell you one thing, the sound of that album and this one are on opposite sides of the recording spectrum in terms of naturalness. On a scale of one to a hundred, Linda scores about a two, and Dionne scores 90, maybe more. It’s a JOY to hear a record with this kind of sound.

Play this one for your audiophile friends who own and respect the recordings of Dianna Krall, Patricia Barber and the like. Be sure to squeeze in the phrase “Boy, they don’t make ’em like they used to…” whenever there is a pause in the music or conversation.

You might also want to ask them if they think the invention of digital reverb was such a good idea after all.

If they’re good analog buddies, ones that you want to keep being your buddies, you might not want to say anything at all. Just keep quiet and let their own ears shame them. This is the kind of record that can do it. (more…)

Boz Scaggs – Boz Scaggs

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This original pressing has two excellent sides, which is two more than the typical cardboardy, flat, thin, lifeless copy has. If you like your music dry and clean, try the remixed version, the CD, or perhaps there is a heavy vinyl version out there (at one-tenth the price). That’s not our sound here at Better Records. The best recordings from the era do not have that sound, so when we find that kind of analog richness, sweetness and naturalness on a pressing such as this, we know the record is right.

The nearly 13-minute long version of Loan Me A Dime on side two is out of this world and the best reason to play the album. Another good reason: Duane “Skydog” Allman on guitar!

What to Listen For — Background Singers You Can “See”

If you have multiple copies of the album and want to shoot them out, here’s an easy test. Listen for how clear and correct the female background singers sound. This is an excellent test because it will hold true for both sides on the album.

On opaque copies, they are hard to “see”; on transparent copies they are easy to “see.” On tonally thin copies they will sound edgier and harder than they should. And on Tubey Magical copies they will sound full-bodied, solid and real.

What excellent sides such as these have to offer is not hard to hear:

  • Bigger, more immediate staging in a large acoustic space
  • More Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1978
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the good weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional space of the studio

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is of course the only way to hear all of the above.

Standard Operating Procedures

What are the criteria by which a record like this should be judged? Pretty much the ones we discuss in most of our Hot Stamper listings: energy, vocal presence, frequency extension (on both ends), transparency, harmonic textures (freedom from smear is key), rhythmic drive, tonal correctness, fullness, richness, and so on down through the list.

When we can get all, or most all, of the qualities above to come together on any given side we provisionally award it a grade of “contender.” Once we’ve been through all our copies on one side we then play the best of the best against each other and arrive at a winner for that side. Repeat the process for the other side and the shootout is officially over. All that’s left is to see how the sides matched up.

It may not be rocket science, but it is a science of a kind, one with strict protocols that we’ve developed over the course of many years to insure that the results we arrive at are as accurate as we can make them.

The result of all our work speaks for itself, on this very record in fact. We guarantee you have never heard this music sound better than it does on our Hot Stamper pressing — or your money back.

Vinyl Condition

Mint Minus Minus and maybe a bit better is about as quiet as any vintage pressing will play, and since only the right vintage pressings have any hope of sounding good on this album, that will most often be the playing condition of the copies we sell. (The copies that are even a bit noisier get listed on the site are seriously reduced prices or traded back in to the local record stores we shop at.)

Those of you looking for quiet vinyl will have to settle for the sound of later pressings and Heavy Vinyl reissues, purchased elsewhere of course as we have no interest in selling records that don’t have the vintage analog magic of these wonderful originals.

If you want to make the trade-off between bad sound and quiet surfaces with whatever Heavy Vinyl pressing might be available, well, that’s certainly your prerogative, but we can’t imagine losing what’s good about this music — the size, the energy, the presence, the clarity, the weight — just to hear it with less background noise.

Remix? No Way

According to Wikipedia:

The Atlantic album eventually went out of print and in 1977, it was completely remixed and reissued on Atlantic 19166. This remix brought out Duane Allman’s guitar in a more up-front way, which changed the original mix, drowning backing voices and keyboards. This remix is the version that’s currently available on CD.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

I’m Easy
I’ll Be Long Gone
Another Day (Another Letter)
Now You’re Gone
Finding Her Scaggs
Look What I Got!

Side Two

Waiting for a Train
Loan Me a Dime
Sweet Release

AMG Review

Departing from the Steve Miller Band after a two-album stint, Boz Scaggs found himself on his own but not without support. Rolling Stone publisher Jann Wenner, his friend, helped him sign with Atlantic Records and the label had him set up shop in Muscle Shoals, recording his debut album with that legendary set of studio musicians, known for their down-and-dirty backing work for Aretha Franklin and Wilson Pickett, among many other Southern soul legends.

The Muscle Shoals rhythm section, occasionally augmented by guitarist Duane Allman, gives this music genuine grit, but this isn’t necessarily a straight-up blue-eyed soul record, even if the opening “I’m Easy” and “I’ll Be Long Gone” are certainly as deeply soulful as anything cut at Muscle Shoals.

Even at this early stage Scaggs wasn’t content to stay in one place, and he crafted a kind of Americana fantasia here, also dabbling in country and blues along with the soul and R&B that grounds this record. If the country shuffle “Now You’re Gone” sounds just slightly a shade bit too vaudeville for its own good, it only stands out because the rest of the record is pitch-perfect, from the Jimmie Rodgers cover “Waiting for a Train” and the folky “Look What I Got!” to the extended 11-minute blues workout “Loan Me a Dime,” which functions as much as a showcase for a blazing Duane Allman as it does for Boz.

But even with that show-stealing turn, and even with the Muscle Shoals musicians giving this album its muscle and part of its soul, this album is still thoroughly a showcase for Boz Scaggs’ musical vision, which even at this stage is wide and deep. It would grow smoother and more assured over the years, but the slight bit of raggedness suits the funky, down-home performances and helps make this not only a great debut, but also an enduring blue-eyed soul masterpiece.

Queen – Sheer Heart Attack

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More Records We Only Offer on Import Vinyl

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  • Queen’s killer 1974 release finally makes its Hot Stamper debut with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound from start to finish
  • This copy rocks like crazy with serious weight down low, huge size and space, and plenty of driving energy
  • 4 1/2 stars: “. . . this sense of scale, combined with the heavy guitars, pop hooks, and theatrical style, marks the true unveiling of Queen, making Sheer Heart Attack the moment where they truly came into their own.”

(more…)

The Crusaders – Chain Reaction

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  • An outstanding copy of Chain Reaction with solid Double Plus (A++) sound from first note to last
  • The overall sound here is Tubey Magical, lively and funky, with the kind of rich, solid sound that will fill your listening room from wall to wall
  • If you own the Mobile Fidelity remaster, or some Heavy Vinyl LP, you are in for a real treat – this pressing will show you just how good the recording is
  • 4 1/2 stars: “One of the tastiest concoctions of the mid-’70s jazz-fusion era, Chain Reaction finds the Crusaders at the top of their form. The compositions are both accessible and memorable, and the playing is uniformly excellent.”

(more…)

Jerry Jeff Walker / Mr. Bojangles

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  • A wonderful find of Jerry Jeff’s from 1968, with outstanding Double Plus (A++) sound on both sides
  • Clean and clear, rich and natural, with good vocal presence and wonderful energy throughout
  • The title track sounds amazing, but that’s just one of the great songs with excellent sound on the album
  • The engineering team of Tom Dowd and Phil Iehle really worked their magic on this one
  • 4 1/2 stars: “…Walker favored the country and folk side of folk-rock much more than the rock side.”

This is only the second title by Jerry Jeff that we’ve been able to do shootouts for. Most of the records we’ve played of his from the ’70s left a lot to be desired sonically and more often than not musically, so we gave up on them.

His Vanguard release from 1969 has superb sound, as does this Atco from 1968. There may be one or two more coming down the pike but that could be many years from now. His records never sold all that well, and not many of them can be found in Southern California.

And they are hard to find in audiophile playing condition. (more…)

Tchaikovsky / Violin Concerto / Heifetz / Reiner – Our Shootout Winner from 2009

The Music of Tchaikovsky Available Now

Album Reviews of the Music of Tchaikovsky

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No marks that play appreciably but that RCA vinyl is up to its old tricks again. Mint Minus Minus with constant light surface noise underneath the music in the quieter sections is the rule here. The first half inch of side two is where you will notice it the most. We are of the opinion that good sound and good music allow you to pretty much ignore surfaces such as these, scratches being another thing entirely of course. If there is any problem we offer a money back guarantee on this one.

Better Front Ends

I would make the further point that the better your front end is the less likely you are to have a problem with vinyl like this, which is the opposite of what many audiophiles perceive to be the case. In other words, some of the cheaper tables and carts seem to make the surface noise more objectionable, not less. On the other hand, some pricey cartridges — the Benz line comes to mind — are consistently noisier than those by Dynavector, Lyra and others, in our experience anyway.

(more…)

Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge – Full Moon

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More Rita Coolidge

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  • A KILLER pressing of Full Moon with Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from first note to last – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • This stunning copy gives you amazing immediacy, loads of richness and warmth, and wonderful transparency
  • The vocals are wonderfully breathy and sweet, the bass is killer and everything is natural and musical – so good!
  • 4 stars: “Despite Kristofferson’s greater celebrity, the LP was made with Coolidge’s strengths in mind. . . The songs were set in her key, with Kristofferson crooning along in an unusually high register. The tempos were mostly slow, emphasizing the dreamy quality of Coolidge’s voice.”

(more…)

Sade – Promise

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More Titles Only Offered on Import LP

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  • Sade’s Best Album returns with stunning Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish – exceptionally quiet vinyl too
  • Both sides of this UK disc are simply amazing sounding compared to what you’ve heard – rich and full yet clean, clear and open 
  • There’s no denying the power of Sade’s sultry voice when you can actually hear it – she is on fire on this album
  • Her best song is on side one here – Is It a Crime – and the big band arrangement will surely send chills up and down your spine, especially with Triple Plus sound quality

Not many copies manage to have this kind of consistently stunning sound across both sides. This copy gives you the kind of present, breathy vocals this music absolutely requires to work its magic.

If you know this album at all you know that most pressings are just too damn dark sounding. Sade herself is typically recessed in the mix and veiled; it takes an exceptional copy such as this one to make her voice both present and breathy. (more…)

Linda Ronstadt – Don’t Cry Now

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Reviews and Commentaries for Linda Ronstadt

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  • A STUNNING copy of Don’t Cry Now with a Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) side two mated with an outstanding Double Plus (A++) side one
  • The transparency and vocal presence here are wonderful – the piano is solid and Linda’s vocals are breathy and heartfelt
  • We love her emotionally powerful interpretations of Desperado, Sail Away and Neil Young’s achingly sublime I Believe in You
  • She really belts it out on this album – it’s what she does best – but only the best copies allow you to turn up the volume good and loud and let her do her thing
  • Rolling Stone raves it’s “the Ronstadt album for which we’ve been waiting.”

A key to recognizing the best copies is the fact that they tend to be highly resolving. Two places to check:

Note how breathy her voice is in the quiet passages. Only the least smeared, most transparent copies reproduce that breathy quality in her voice.

Next check out the tambourine on Silver Threads and Golden Needles. If the sound is delicate, not gritty or transistory, you have yourself a winner in the resolution department. (more…)

Rod Stewart – A Night On The Town

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  • Stewart’s 1976 release finally arrives on the site with STUNNING Shootout Winning Triple Plus (A+++) sound from start to finish
  • You get clean, clear, full-bodied, lively and musical ANALOG sound from first note to last
  • 4 1/2 stars: “A Night on the Town isn’t a revival of Atlantic Crossing, it’s its inverse, with Stewart shining as an interpreter on the fast songs and writing the best slow ones, but it’s also its equal, proving that Stewart could still stay true to his open-hearted, ragged soul while on a big budget.”

*NOTE: There is some light inner groove distortion during the loud chorus at the very end of side two.

This original Warner Brothers Palm Tree pressing has the kind of Tubey Magical Midrange that modern records can barely BEGIN to reproduce. Folks, that sound is gone and it sure isn’t showing signs of coming back. If you love hearing INTO a recording, actually being able to “see” the performers, and feeling as if you are sitting in the studio with the band, this is the record for you. It’s what vintage all analog recordings are known for — this sound.

If you exclusively play modern repressings of vintage recordings, I can say without fear of contradiction that you have never heard this kind of sound on vinyl. Old records have it — not often, and certainly not always — but maybe one out of a hundred new records do, and those are some pretty long odds.

What the Best Sides of A Night On The Town Have to Offer Is Not Hard to Hear

  • The biggest, most immediate staging in the largest acoustic space
  • The most Tubey Magic, without which you have almost nothing. CDs give you clean and clear. Only the best vintage vinyl pressings offer the kind of Tubey Magic that was on the tapes in 1976
  • Tight, note-like, rich, full-bodied bass, with the correct amount of weight down low
  • Natural tonality in the midrange — with all the instruments having the correct timbre
  • Transparency and resolution, critical to hearing into the three-dimensional studio space

No doubt there’s more but we hope that should do for now. Playing the record is the only way to hear all of the qualities we discuss above, and playing the best pressings against a pile of other copies under rigorously controlled conditions is the only way to find a pressing that sounds as good as this one does.

What We’re Listening For on A Night On The Town

  • Energy for starters. What could be more important than the life of the music?
  • Then: presence and immediacy. The vocals aren’t “back there” somewhere, lost in the mix. They’re front and center where any recording engineer worth his salt would put them.
  • The Big Sound comes next — wall to wall, lots of depth, huge space, three-dimensionality, all that sort of thing.
  • Then transient information — fast, clear, sharp attacks, not the smear and thickness so common to these LPs.
  • Tight punchy bass — which ties in with good transient information, also the issue of frequency extension further down.
  • Next: transparency — the quality that allows you to hear deep into the soundfield, showing you the space and air around all the instruments.
  • Extend the top and bottom and voila, you have The Real Thing — an honest to goodness Hot Stamper.

TRACK LISTING

Side One

Tonight’s The Night
The First Cut Is The Deepest
Fool For You
The Killing Of Georgie (Part I And II)

Side Two

The Balltrap
Big Bayou
The Wild Side Of Life
Trade Winds

AMG 4 1/2 Star Review

In some ways, it’s easy to think of A Night on the Town, Rod Stewart’s second album for Warner, as a reprisal of the first, cut with many of the same musicians as Atlantic Crossing, produced once again by Tom Dowd, and even following its predecessor’s conceit of having a “Slow Side” and “Fast Side” (granted, this flips the two around, opening with the slow one first). Superficially, this seems true, but A Night on the Town has a crucial difference: despite its party-hearty title, this album finds Stewart folding folk back into his sound, a move that deepens the music tonally and emotionally, particularly in the case of “The Killing of Georgie (Pts. 1 & 2),” Rod’s most ambitious original.

A winding, sensitive narrative about the murder of a gay friend — a hate crime years before the term existed — “The Killing of Georgie” finds Stewart filtering Dylan through his own warm, conversational style, creating a remarkable work unlike anything else in his body of work, yet the song’s smooth synthesis of folk storytelling, soul, and incipient disco act as an appropriate conclusion to a side-long suite of songs of seduction, beginning with his classic come-on “Tonight’s the Night (Gonna Be Alright),” running through his splendid reading of Cat Stevens’ “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” and his fine original “Fool for You.” On the Fast Side, Stewart has only one original — the lewd, riotous “The Balltrap” — but he more makes up for it by spinning two country classics, Gib Guilbeau’s “Big Bayou” and Hank Thompson’s “The Wild Side of Life,” into thick, Stonesy rock & roll, and turning Manfred Mann’s “Pretty Flamingo” into a rave-up.

With all this in mind, A Night on the Town isn’t a revival of Atlantic Crossing, it’s its inverse, with Stewart shining as an interpreter on the fast songs and writing the best slow ones, but it’s also its equal, proving that Stewart could still stay true to his open-hearted, ragged soul while on a big budget.